While tart cherries traditionally have been synonymous with oozing fruit pies, a research report commissioned by the Cherry Marketing Institute sheds light on their antioxidant power.
By incorporating dried or IQF tart cherries into a wider range of baked products, operators can market the products’ nutritional profile while testing tart cherries’ potential beyond pie.
“Pie was a major focus for tart cherries in the past,” says Jeff Manning, chief marketing officer for the Cherry Marketing Institute. “Our primary focus of last five years has been to reposition tart cherries as a superfruit, since they got left behind with the recent superfruit craze surrounding blueberries, goji and acai.” Among the health benefits of tart cherries cited in “The Red Report,” they contain among the highest levels of antioxidants per serving compared to other superfruits because they are high in anthocyanins; they also reportedly reduce inflammation and aid muscle recovery in athletes as well as reduce pain from gout and arthritis. Cherries undergo minimal nutritional degradation during production, keeping nutrition claims intact, Manning says.
In bakery applications aside from traditional pies and cobblers, they’re ideal as both a substitute for and complement to most berries in muffins, scones and cookies. Their sweet-tart flavor allows them to stand alone or complement a much sweeter berry like a blueberry. In dried form, cherries are chewy and offer a mellow sweet-tart flavor, which complements warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and black pepper. Frozen cherries lend bright red color and work well alongside nuts in cakes and muffins. Though IQF cherries don’t pose any production issues, they are very large, so bakers should order them cut in half or quarter sizes.
“Any of the uses that a baker would have for blueberries, strawberries or cranberries, cherries would slot in quite easily. On the less traditional side, cherries are finding their way into specialty yeast breads with nuts and dried fruit,” Manning says. “I would encourage you to get in the kitchen, and order some IQF and dried cherries. If you’re using a lot of blueberries or cranberries, just substitute 50 percent with tart cherries and see what you get.”